- SPOILERS: This post contains spoilers from the HBO documentary ‘Mommy Dead and Dearest.’
My husband and I cuddled up on the couch on Saturday evening to watch Mommy Dead and Dearest, the HBO documentary about the murder of Dee Dee Blancharde and the accused, her own daughter Gypsy Rose Blancharde. Not the most romantic date night for sure, but intersting nontheless. Gypsy endured one of the worst cases of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, a mental illness and form of abuse in which a caregiver intentionally makes their dependent ill, ever to be recorded. After watching the documentary, I read this article detailing what Gypsy plans to do after being released from prision. In addition to considering culinary and cosmotology school, Gypsy had this to say as told by her step-mom Kristy:
She had told me that one day, she hopes when she gets out, that she wants to be able to grow a family. And she had mentioned that to one of her cellmates, and her cellmate said, “Well, aren’t you too scared to raise your child like your mom did?” And she said, “What I have learned is how to not raise my child how my mom raised me. I am learning how to raise my child by [Kristy,] my mom I have now. With compassion, and with love, and being honest, and being there for your child for all the right reasons.”
-Anna Gragert & Rachel Sanoff, hellogigles.com
Despite the grizzly tale of Gypsy’s life, her comments here scare me more. About 30% of abused and/or neglected children will grow up to later abuse their own children. You might reason that Gypsy stands a 70% chance of not abusing her future children to which I say, why take that chance?
Righting Childhood Wrongs: The Right Way & The Wrong Way
When I have kids, I’m going to do things differently than my parents. This sentiment is not uncommon but is it healthy?
In most cases they explain that having a baby seemed to offer a respite from the pain of unloving parents or rejecting relationships with lovers or spouses…The real problem, of course, is that the burden of supplying love is shifted onto the child who is supposed to be emotional first aid for the parent. That is a recipe for disaster.
-Peg Streep, 6 Terrible Reasons for Anyone to Have a Child, Psychology Today
You cannot relive your childhood vicariously through your children simply because they are not you. There are no guarantees that children will fill your emotional void or mend your psychological wounds. Instead of trying to right childhood wrongs by having children, why not invest in self-care?
Mental Illness Doesn’t Disappear
Many of you know my struggle with anxiety and intermittent depression. My mental health is one of the (big) reasons I’m childfree. About 85% of women will experience a negative mood shift after giving birth. About 10 to 15% will go on to experience serious depression/anxiety known as postpardum depression. Although rare, some women also develop postpardum pyschosis.
Women who have had major depression in the past have a higher risk of becoming depressed in pregnancy, especially if they stopped taking antidepressant medication while trying to become pregnant.
Treating depression in a woman who wants to conceive or is pregnant is complicated… In pregnancy, concerns arise about using medications to treat depression since they cross the placenta and may harm the fetus. At the same time, untreated major depression has serious potential risks for mother and fetus, since it may lead to poor nutrition, smoking, drinking, suicidal behavior, prolonged or premature labor, and low birth weights.
-David A. Kahn, MD, Margaret L. Moline, PhD, Ruth W. Ross, MA, Lee S. Cohen, MD, and Lori L. Altshuler, MD, Major Depression During Conception and Pregnancy: A Guide for Patients and Families
While I praise the above guide for its honesty, I am also left disappointed. These doctors go on to recommend a combination of medications for women who battle major depression with psychosis and even state,”Electroconvulsive therapy is also an important option that can be used safely in pregnancy instead of medication for this type of depression.” Abstaining from having children is not mentioned anywhere in this guide but shock therapy is hailed as an alternative. Combine that knowlege with this: many doctors require a psychological evaluation before agreeing to sterilize a childless young woman. Why the double standard? Because pregnancy is a woman’s right!, you might be thinking. But I would disagree. Parenthood should be a privileged right, as Laura Carroll outlines in her book. Not everyone is fit to be a parent for one reason or another – and that’s okay.
Compared to depressive psychosis, my mental illness is mild. Yet, I am still reliant on daily medication to keep my anxiety at bay. I have to take stronger, faster-acting medication on my ‘bad days’, not unlike many anxiety-sufferers. What I’m saying is this: you would have to pry my Chlorpromazine out of my cold dead hands before I gave it to you. I couldn’t take any of the medications I’m currently on if I were pregnant. This means I’d become even more anxious on top of the relatively normal amount of stress that accompanies pregnancy.
I don’t know what psychological problems Gypsy Rose Blancharde now experiences. However, there is no doubting their existence. Mommy Dead and Dearest provides us with just a glimpse into her life. It is obvious that her mental scars will last her entire lifetime. Gypsy’s mental health can improve with extensive therapy but she will never be cured. Gypsy didn’t choose to be abused but she can choose to prevent future abuse. At the risk of sounding harsh: Shouldn’t Gypsy’s trauma end with her?
I doubt that any of us can fully relate to the Blancharde family. Still, many of us carry emotional baggage from mediocre childhoods or dysfunctional families. 40 million people are currently dealing with anxiety right here in the United States. The fact is: most, if not all, of us have issues. We’d do well to consider if this is legacy is one worth continuing.
Do you agree or disagree with me? What did you think of ‘Mommy Dead and Dearest?’
Tell me in the comments section below.